So let’s say you’re a big music fan and spend hours a day bopping to your favorite sounds. What happens when you get locked up in the Tombs? Initially, you’re mostly out of luck. Whatever music you hear will come from the television in the common area – mostly in the form of jingles playing behind the commercials. Forevermore, I will be reminded of my vacation at the Tombs whenever I hear the song “These Are a Few of My Favorite Things.” It’s the music from some commercial or other I heard at least 25 times during my stay.
But once the unit’s commissary day rolls around, inmates have an opportunity to improve the situation. Made available for purchase by the corrections department is a see-through Sony radio, ear buds, and batteries – all for about $22. Basically, the unit resembles an old Sony Walkman. Whether it’s AM or AM/FM I do not know. I assume it’s the latter – which even with both bands, offers the listener significantly fewer choices than if he were on the outside. I’m not a big fan of commercial radio but still, if I were in for a while, I’d get that radio if for no other reason than to ascertain what time it was while locked in. Peering out the translucent slat in my cell, looking for hints of dawn’s early light would no longer be necessary.
The Tombs itself is a transitional home for those who reside there. It’s essentially inhabited by inmates who can’t make bail and must wait for their court hearing before being moved, inmates with no bail because they’re in on a probation violation and must await their next court hearing before knowing anything about their fate, and people like me waiting for their bail to come through. It’s not a permanent situation for anybody.
Apparently, when that moving day comes, he who owns a radio can’t take it with him. And that necessitates a decision as to which lucky inmate gets the radio. I imagine some guys will establish a quid pro quo with another…but the heavy guy who I befriended looked at me one day and said “I think I’m going to give you my radio when they move me upstate.” Homey knew he was going to get 3 – 5 years for his probation violation. He knew the move was coming. And he didn’t know how long I’d be stuck in that rotten jail. And for whatever reason, he decided I was the most deserving recipient. If we were at the Catholic Worker, I’d have given him a hug. But at the Tombs? Not appropriate. I simply answered “Thanks, but I’ll be out soon enough.”
Nap was a big, friendly black man who sat down next to me one day and was in fact, the only person who asked me how I’d managed to earn a vacation at the Manhattan Detention Center. And so I told him “Promoting prostitution in the third degree.” Nap gave me a quizzical look and declared “I know you wasn’t no pimp!” “No, but I knew some,” I answered. From there I described exactly my role in the escort industry and we became friends.
Just hours before getting sprung, I got the feeling that I had truly been accepted among my unit’s inmates. I can’t tell you why but on that night, Nap offered me some cooked hamburgers he’d taken from the kitchen (with permission I would assume), the conspiracy theorist offered me some coffee he’d bought at commissary, the guy who stole my code gave me some coffee without saying a word (read a previous post), and a very dark man who I thought might be older than me (though he was actually 50 but looked 75) approached me to say “Hey, man! You want a job?” “A job? A job doing what?” I responded forgetting for a moment I resided in a work unit. “Working for me…in supply,” he offered.
I found the manner in which he phrased the offer amusing. But I guess even inmates have their self-respect. “I don’t know. I’d actually like to work for you but I think I’m getting bailed out tomorrow. There would be no point,” said I and left it at that. I know it sounds odd, but I had more feeling about his offer and the inclusion it represented than I did my impending release. One week in and I was already significantly institutionalized. A little income and some structure really would have improved my sublimely simple life. Conversely, I knew I was in for a world of shit the moment of my release. Walking out of the Tombs did not regale me with a sense of freedom. It was but the end of Act One of a new Shakespearian nightmare with me as the central fucking figure.
Yesterday marked the 5th anniversary of my federal home invasion. And for five years I’ve been held in limbo wondering whether I’d be sent down the river. The comfortable thing about my stay at the Tombs lay in the reality that I was down the river. And wherever I might go afterwards wouldn’t be as bad! I remember reading that CARL FERRER, co-owner of Backpage, had been incarcerated in San Diego county jail for a week or two – and wondering “What the hell is Carl gonna do in that environment?” I found out when I got placed in that environment. What you do is fucking survive. Or you kill yourself. I opt for the former. How gay am I?